Neutron stars are very peculiar cosmic objects: despite being small as 20 km in diameter, they have the mass of about 1.4 times that of our own Sun. But once again, one specific neutron star proves to have an interesting card up its sleeve.
The neutron star known as GRO J1008-57 enters the scene, and it’s also an accreting X-ray pulsar. This object captured the astronomers’ attention for emitting powerful beams of electromagnetic radiation.
GRO J1008-57 produces the strongest magnetic field known
A team of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen calculated the pulsar’s magnetic field with the help of periodic X-ray outbursts that were detected by telescopes. It turns out that the magnetic field of GRO J1008-57 is tens of millions of times stronger than those ever created in a lab.
A magnetic field is a vector field that describes the magnetic influence on an electric charge of magnetized materials or other moving charges. A charge from a magnetic field experiences a force perpendicular to its own velocity and to the magnetic field itself. The effects of magnetic fields are usually seen in permanent magnets.
Earth, for instance, has its own magnetic field that deflects most of the solar wind, whose charged particles would otherwise ruin the ozone layer that protects our planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation.
Neutron stars are the remaining cores of stars after they explode in tremendous supernovae. Such an explosion could be as bright as an entire galaxy, and it can even provide fuel for other stars to form themselves. There’s no wonder why neutron stars are so dense: they collapse so much that protons and electrons combine with each other to form neutrons – that’s why they’re called “neutron stars”.
The new research was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.